Your menstrual cycle: the best ally for your sports performance.

Did you know that by knowing the different phases of your menstrual cycle you can improve your sports performance? Mercedes Marín, expert in Crossfit and good friend of our brand, tells us how, by learning how to control the mind, there is no need to stop training in your period days. The key is to plan your training in good harmony with your menstrual cycle. Like us, she also says #IdontStop.

Our body goes through great changes along the menstrual cycle. Knowing which are its four phases and their particularities will help us reach a better harmony with our body. This will not only allow us to improve our eating habits, as we recently explained, but also gives us tips on how to plan our sports training in order to achieve better results depending on the phase we’re currently on.

In our #IdontStop week, we’ve been lucky enough to speak to Mercedes Marín, expert on physical training, particularly Crossfit. Mercedes tells us that she maintains constancy in her training and never lowers its intensity, not even during her period. As women, we all know that the physical issues suffered during our period can make any activity much more difficult, but she gives us the key: the most important is to know how to control our minds.

The conversation with Mercedes has brought very interesting thoughts to us. There are few challenges as great as dominating the mind in one’s favour, and the result of achieving this is a personal strength with no limits. When it comes to us, we are very sure: the main tool to achieve this goal is the information. The more we know about our body and menstrual cycle, the more control we will have about what we feel and how we manage it.

And it is because of this, that if in the previous article we explained the four phases of your menstrual cycle and what to do to feel better in each one of them, now we will focus on how to organise your sports training according to these, in order to improve your sports performance in each one of them.

  • First week of the cycle, menstruation. In this period it is recommended that the intensity and quantity in the work is kept low, it is the most complex phase due to the loss of iron and a higher sensation of weakness because of the bleeding. The processes of muscle oxygenation are affected by the loss of hemoglobin and iron, and the heart rate is increased.

Low intensity jogging or long walks are activities that can be recommended in this phase because they don’t require much oxygen. Yoga is also a type of exercise that meets the body’s needs during these days. It is important to know how to distinguish the body’s signs of alert, like extreme fatigue or dizziness, and to know when to stop.

  • Second week of the cycle, follicular phase. It is the phase in which the levels of estrogen are increasing progressively until they reach their highest point during ovulation. These estrogen levels still low work in favour of using fast energy, which is why high intensity or short intervals series are recommended.

Training with weights or changing rhythm are types of exercise that take advantage of the use of muscular glucogen. The sports women can rely on a higher recovery capacity during these days and the mood is also favorable, which is why it is the phase of the cycle when an optimum performance can be achieved.

  • Third phase of the cycle, ovulation. This one happens in the middle of the cycle and it is the highest point of performance and strength for a woman. The high quantity of estrogen and the increase of progesterone is what helps achieving this higher performance. Both hormones are key because they improve resistance, speed and strength, which is why the type of exercises with this characteristics are ideal.

Despite it being a time where it is important to pay attention to injuries, due to a higher muscular laxitude that makes the muscles not having the optimum tension, this is the phase during which physical activity is ideal and high intensity training should be prioritised.

  • Fourth phase of the cycle, luteal phase. Actually the luteal phase starts during the second half of the cycle, but it becomes more obvious during its last week. According to expert gynecologists it is during these days when the influence of the menstrual cycle on the sports activity can be more evident. This is due to the decrease of estrogen and increase of progesterone, a catabolic hormone that favours the energy obtention. It is during these days when symptoms motivated by the hormonal change may appear, such as bloatedness, liquids retention, higher heart rate and arterial pressure, possibility for gastric issues, risk of dehydration, more tiredness and mood swings.  

Whether it is to attend a pilates class, doing some stretching at home, swimming or biking, cardiovascular exercises on a constant rhythm are the most recommended ones during this phase.

As in any process of assimilation and adaptation, the most important part is to get to know oneself and to not obsess. The body changes produced by the different phases of the menstrual cycle are perfectly manageable, especially if you are an active woman, used to physical exercise, and the most important is to count on as much information as possible and to learn how to take care of yourself.

To understand that hormonal changes are different and depend entirely on each woman is also important. The key is to know yourself and how to distinguish your own needs, for which a good harmony with your own body is necessary.

Something very repeated as well as very true is that physical activity favours the production of endorphins and reduces the level of prostaglandins (substances that increase the pain). This means that exercising can also help coping with some of the painful symptoms of your menstrual cycle.   

Sources:

24-hour energy expenditure and the menstrual cycle

Women, Hormones, Metabolism & Energy Expenditure

La mujer, el ciclo menstrual y la actividad física


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